The Trials of a Scold: Book Review

The Incredible True Story of Writer Anne Royall
I first became interested in Anne Royall while researching the story about her ambushing a skinny-dipping John Quincy Adams for an interview. At first I was disappointed there was absolutely no truth to the tale (see my debunking here) but I soon found out the actual story of Royall’s life and her infamous trial for being a “common scold” far more interesting.

In a new book The Trials of a Scold: The Incredible True Story of Writer Anne Royall out this month, Jeff Biggers tells Anne Royall’s story in a compelling narrative that helps restore her place in history.

John Adams and Hamilton's Superabundance of Secretions

And What Makes Men Terrible
In one letter from 1806, John Adams manages to level his greatest insult at Alexander Hamilton at the same time he shares a bizarre medical theory about why men like Hamilton go mad with power.

My Uncomfortable Night With "Thomas and Sally"

A provocative, but not thought-provoking, play.
When I first heard about Thomas Bradshaw’s play Thomas and Sally opening at Marin Theatre Company, I was intrigued.

John Quincy Adams's Footloose Winter

Young JQA and the preacher who hated dancing

Hoofing in Haverhill

More than fifty years before he became an outspoken crusader against slavery, 18-year-old John Quincy Adams was an unlikely champion for the right to boogie.

Hamilton Rocks The Future Of History

Can one musical save our past and future?
After years of waiting, I finally saw Hamilton last week in Los Angeles. My wife and I were absolutely spellbound the whole time – dumbfounded masses of quivering goosebumps dripping with tears and snot, gasping for air as certain moments punched us right in the soul. I recommend it.

Solar Eclipse Tips From John Quincy Adams

Sage advice from an early American eclipse chaser.
John Quincy Adams loved astronomy, and he was a huge fan of solar eclipses – from predicting and observing them to writing weird sonnets in their honor. In preparation for the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017, here are a few do’s and don’ts from JQA.

The Senator Who Hated John Adams’s Stupid Face

William Maclay was a hater.
Only one diary survives from the United States’ first Congress, and it’s a gold mine of shade. Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay provided detailed firsthand accounts of the day-to-day struggles of the Senate’s first years in New York City, and multiple references to how much he hated Vice President John Adams and everything about him.

John Quincy Adams's Life in 9 Boats

It was rarely smooth sailing.
In honor of John Quincy Adams’s 250th birthday, here are nine pivotal boat-related incidents that capture the love, danger, embarrassment, and tragedy of his epic life.

John Quincy Adams's Prophetic Diary Entry

He's bringing eloquent back.
Following his father’s advice, John Quincy Adams started a diary at age 12 and kept it up for the rest of his life. The result is a treasure trove of historical insight and wit and a fascinating window into 70 years worth of Adams’s private thoughts.

To commemorate the notorious JQA's 250th anniversary this July, Library of America just put out a beautiful brand new two-volume selected edition of his diary, which I immediately ordered. It arrived last night and immediately sucked me in. I found myself tearing through the pages of his life from the age of 12 through 22, astounded at how precocious and utterly relatable he was.

History Carnival #166

Some of the best historical blog writing from May 2017
I’m excited to be hosting the 166th installment of The History Carnival, a monthly showcase of some of the best recent blogging on historical topics from around the world. Each month it's hosted at a different blog to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives, and this month the pleasure of compiling this eclectic mix is all mine!

The Hypocritical Hagiographies of Harlow Giles Unger

Who Really Wrote The Monroe Doctrine? 
(And Who Not To Ask)
Cranking out a book a year since 2005, Harlow Giles Unger has been called "America's Most Readable Historian." One reason he’s so readable is because he doesn’t let boring things like facts get in the way of a good story.

Andrew Jackson Was A Real-Life Horror Movie Monster

The Indians called him "Sharp Knife" for a reason.

I’ve read a lot of Stephen King novels, but I was never afraid of a character jumping out from the pages of a book and punching me in the face until I read a biography of Andrew Jackson.

Jackson’s life is a long series of larger than life incidents of being an unrelenting murder machine. And I’m not even talking about the institutionalized horror of his genocidal Indian Removal Act, which wiped out thousands of Native Americans. I’m talking about personal in-your-face horror on a level his colleagues considered supernatural.

The Skinny on John Quincy Adams's Skinny Dipping Interview

The naked truth about JQA and reporter Anne Royall.

John Quincy Adams died 169 years ago, but one legend about him and writer Anne Royall lives on. And it's time for it to die.

Hollywood Needs To Tell Louisa Adams's Story

Meet your new favorite first lady.

John Quincy Adams wasn’t looking for love in 1795. The 28-year-old diplomat, son of the vice-president, and future president himself was still recovering from a recent heartbreak when he arrived in London. He wrote to his mother, Abigail, that he would not consider even marrying until he was 45.

Then he met Louisa Johnson.

Donald Trump Is All The Worst Parts of Thomas Jefferson

 And none of the best.
I’ve been thinking about how to write about the new president, and how to relate him to the founding fathers. I keep coming back to Thomas Jefferson.